The blob is nothing if not unpredictable. If you asked the most seasoned baseball analysts and Blue Jay fans in April who would be holding up the back-end of the starting rotation by August, it is unlikely even two of 100 would have chosen Brad Mills and Henderson Alvarez to be there.
The tendency of injury in MLB starting rotations and the depth of talent and competition in the organization have combined to see 10 young pitchers (Romero, Morrow, Reyes, Drabek, Villanueva, Cecil, Litsch, Mills, Stewart, Alvarez), all 27 and under, start for the Blue Birds.
1. Ricky Romero is the only one, who has not missed a start due to injury or seen time in the minors. The top three (Romero, Morrow, Cecil) have, more or less, found their form and consistency.
4. Brad Mills needs a quality start tonight, if he wants to stay out of Las Vegas.
5. Henderson Alvarez will likely get the Zach Stewart treatment: three starts, more if he doesn’t get hit hard.
6. Jesse Litsch remains in the bullpen. He may yet start some games, if others falter or injure.
7. Kyle Drabek, see you in September.
8. Dustin McGowan made the jump to New Hampshire Double-A last week. Eight scoreless innings of work there is a great sign.
9. Joel Carreno. I’m surprised this guy doesn’t get more attention. He’s been projected as a big league reliever, even though he’s arguably been the Fisher Cats ace this season.
10. Chad Jenkins, next September or 2013.
11. Nestor Molina, next September or 2013.
12. Deck McGuire made the jump to New Hampshire, before sitting down for a rest on the 7-day disabled list. Next September at earliest.
- Ricky Romero (26)
- Brandon Morrow (27)
- Brett Cecil (25)
- Brad Mills (26)
- ↑Henderson Alvarez (21)
- ↓Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
- Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
- Dustin McGowan (29) – New Hampshire
- Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
- ↑Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
- ↑Nestor Molina (22) – New Hampshire
- Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire (7-day DL)
- ↑P.J. Walters – (26) – Las Vegas
- ↓Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
- Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
- ↑Yohan Pino (27) – New Hampshire
- ↑Willie Collazo (31) – New Hampshire
- Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
- Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin
- ↑Asher Wojciechowski – Dunedin
Welcome Colby Rasmus. Hopefully, he and Travis Snider will push each other to meet their ubiquitously spoken of potential.
As of Wednesday July 27, GM Alex Anthopolous, video seen at Getting Blanked, had only stated that Brad Mills was called up for temporary bullpen depth, until the Blue Jays new pitchers (P.J. Walters and Trevor Miller) arrived. A decision had not yet been made on who would start Saturday’s game. How quickly things change in these starting rotation sweepstakes. Brad Mills is our #5.
According to Mike Wilner on the Jays Talk, Mills is likely getting the start today as a way of showing him off as potential trade bait, before the deadline strikes Sunday. The following John Farrell quote from bluejays. com, provides some context:
“The fact that Brad has thrown the ball exceptionally well in Las Vegas, I think he’s earned the spot,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s got the opportunity to take this start and run with it.”
Whatever the case may be, Mills deserves at least a 10 game stint in some major league ball club’s starting rotation.
He’s dominated in Triple-A, unlike Brett Cecil, Jesse Litsch and Kyle Drabek. He’s got a lot to prove at the big league level, and I think he’s about ready to do it.
Zach Stewart is out, no longer part of the puzzle. Our depth of starting rotation makes losing Zach a moot point, (in the modern sense of the term).
I don’t think Luis Perez has earned his shot in the rotation, though look for him to rejoin the big club’s bullpen soon.
Carlos Villanueva will have to pitch better than he did Thursday over his next three starts, especially if Mills hangs around, Litsch pitches well in long relief and Kyle Drabek continues to bring his ERA back down to Earth.
Exciting times, indeed.
Chad Beck made the jump to Las Vegas this week. Deck McGuire is now a New Hampshire Fisher Cat, and Dustin McGowan is now up to pitching three innings per start with Dunedin. Joel Carreno and Henderson Alvarez are knocking on the Blue Jays door. It will be interesting to see if either gets the chance to show his stuff when the roster expands to 40 come September.
- Ricky Romero (26)
- Brandon Morrow (27)
- Brett Cecil (25)
- Carlos Villanueva (27)
- ↑Brad Mills (26)
- ↑Jesse Litsch (26) – Toronto bullpen
- ↑Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
- ↑Dustin McGowan (29) – Dunedin
- ↑Joel Carreno (24) -New Hampshire
- ↑Luis Perez (26) – Las Vegas
- ↑Henderson Alvarez (21) – New Hampshire
- Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
- ↑Deck McGuire (22) – New Hampshire
- ↑Chad Beck (26) – Las Vegas
- ↓Scott Richmond (31) – Las Vegas
- ↓Robert Ray (27) – Las Vegas
- ↑Nestor Molina (22) -Dunedin
- ↑B.J. LaMura (30) – New Hampshire
- ↑Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
- ↑Ryan Tepera (23) -Dunedin
Ricky Romero – leadership shown, all-star calibre, struggles with Red Sox
Kyle Drabek – demotion to Las Vegas, return to rotation a challenge
Brett Cecil – fastball up to 93 mph again, rotation mainstay rest of way
Jo Jo Reyes – unfocused, #5 spot in starting rotation, on the bubble
Jesse Litsch – rehab stint in Las Vegas, rotation spot in doubt
Brandon Morrow – shades of 2010, momentum, on verge of breakthrough
Carlos Villaneuva – exceeding expectations, #4 starter, trade bait
Sean Camp – Zen master of eliciting ground balls, hittable, 1 blown save
Jason Frasor – sure hand, candidate for closer role, 2 blown saves
John Rauch – hothead, very hittable, 7 saves in 9 tries
Mark Rzepczynski – reliable middle-relief, 3 blown saves, 3 extra base hits allowed
Casey Jannssen – placed on 15-day DL, retroactive to June 15
Octavio Dotel – improved effectiveness, innings eater
Frank Francisco – below average closer, 4 blown saves, unprofessional tendency
Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, unestablished rookie, 2 blown saves
Aaron Hill – too cautious, shell of 2009 self, Blue Jay end near
Adam Lind – dialed in, future batting champion, all-star production
Travis Snider – 3 doubles in MLB return, deserving outfield starter
Jason Nix – below Mendoza line, designated for assignment July 2
Jose Molina – above-average backup catcher, effective place holder
Corey Patterson – horrendous decision-making on base paths + outfield, liability
Jose Bautista – constant development, all-star, MVP candidate
J.P. Arencibia – good rookie production, sunken BA
Rajai Davis – lightning speed, awful slump, too many SO, second half producer
Edwin Encarnacion – natural DH, streaky, on the bubble
Yunel Escobar – all-star calibre statistics, improved power + work ethic
Juan Rivera – place holder role over, DFA July 3
John McDonald – above Mendoza line again, unsung Toronto hero
Mike McCoy – down + up again, good OBP, useful professional
Eric Thames – spark plug, confident, room for improvement in SO/BB ratio
To animate the notion of a malleable starting rotation, composed of this organization’s top 20 starters, think gelatinous blob. Individual forces push toward and pull back from various spots, while overall movement trends in the same direction.
The blob is getting bigger.
It was last spotted heading south.
Engrossing New York and Boston is only a matter of time.
Brett Cecil is looking more like a #3 man. Tao of Stieb waxes poetic on the thighs of Cecil, which recovered from a rough last outing and a trying stretch to start the game against the Red Sox last night, going the distance in a losing cause at Fenway Park.
8 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 6 SO
Jesse Litsch got hit hard wearing the Las Vegas 51s uniform July 4. He’ll have to put together a few quality starts in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League before Jays brass will consider moving him back into the rotation. Andrew Stoeten at Drunk Jays Fans speculates on how the starting rotation numbers game may play out. Through two starts for Vegas, the Litsch line does not help his cause in the starting rotation sweepstakes:
6 IP, 8 ER , 16 H, 0 BB, 5 SO
Despite putting together a promising start to the season in Double-A, Reidier Gonzalez is again getting pounded by PCL hitters.
70.1 IP, 2.56 ERA, 1.21 WHIP – New Hampshire
22.1 IP, 11.69 ERA, 2.60 WHIP – Las Vegas
It is highly unlikely he will be called up to Toronto when the roster expand from 25 to 40.
Joel Carreno has been an Eastern League leader and strikeout master for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats in 15 games this season.
90.2 IP (7th), 3.18 ERA (8th), 1.18 WHIP (8th), 111 SO (2nd)
Compare with Zach Stewart through 13 starts:
75.2 IP (26th), 4.04 ERA (25th), 1.41 WHIP (27th), 53 SO (41st)
Robert Ray, thought to have been released outright by the Blue Jays May 19, 2011, is, in fact, still in the organization. Signed as a free agent on May 21, 2011, Ray has been in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats starting rotation since June 12. He yesterday logged his second quality start in five tries.
27.0 IP, 7.33 ERA, 1.63 WHIP , 23 SO
Since his promotion from Dunedin to New Hampshire, Henderson Alvarez has started nine games for the Fisher Cats.
53.1 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 37 SO
Also making the jump to the Blue Jays Double-A starting rotation, Chad Jenkins has started five games. The 2009 first round draft pick would also seem to belong.
35.0 IP, 3.34 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 21 SO
Considering the Jays organization has promoted two of its better young pitchers (Drabek and Stewart) directly from Double-A to the Big Leagues, it is within the realm of possibility that Carreno, Alvarez, or Jenkins could get a look sooner than later.
Dustin McGowan, who was reported to have been shut down due to shoulder soreness, did miss a simulated start but threw two bullpen sessions instead last week. Tonight, July 6, he started his second game for the Dunedin Blue Jays, throwing two scoreless innings before youngster Drew Hutchison replaced him.
The 20-year-old Hutchison, a 15th round selection in 2009, has been promoted to Dunedin from the Lansing Lugnuts. In his first two starts, June 26 and July 1, Hutchison did not allow a run. He was pitching in his third game at the time of this posting.
- Ricky Romero (26)
- Brandon Morrow (26)
- Brett Cecil (25)
- Carlos Villanueva (27)
- Jo Jo Reyes (26)
- Brad Mills (26) – Las Vegas
- Jesse Litsch (26) – Las Vegas
- Kyle Drabek (23) – Las Vegas
- Zach Stewart (24) – New Hampshire
- Dustin McGowan (29) – Dunedin
- Scott Richmond (31) – Las Vegas
- Joel Carreno (24) – New Hampshire
- Henderson Alvarez (21) – New Hampshire
- Chad Jenkins (23) – New Hampshire
- Deck McGuire (21) – Dunedin
- Nestor Molina (22) – Dunedin
- Reidier Gonzalez (25) – Las Vegas
- Mike MacDonald (29) – Las Vegas
- Chad Beck (26) – New Hampshire
- Drew Hutchison (20) – Dunedin
3. Brett Cecil – June 30, 6.1 IP, 6 ER, defensive lapses
5. Jo Jo Reyes – July 3, 6.0 IP, 4 ER
6. Brad Mills – July 2, 7 IP, 2 ER
7. Jesse Litsch – July 4, 3 IP, 7 ER
8. Kyle Drabek – June 30, 6 IP, 1 ER, 0 BB
9. Zach Stewart – July 3, 6 IP, O ER (3 R)
10. Dustin McGowan – July 2, 33 pitches, 2/3 IP, 3 ER, defensive lapses
Following his 30-day rehabilitation, if he is not yet ready to rejoin the Blue Jays, McGowan may rest and/or start a new 30-day rehab stint.
Jesse Litsch barrels along the comeback trail, making the jump from Lansing to New Hampshire. His two starts for the Double-A Fisher Cats have bested the one in A-ball the previous week, where he gave up three runs in two(+) innings of work.
After 3.2 shutout innings June 23, Litsch lasted five innings and gave up one run June 28. His next start will likely take place in a Las Vegas 51s uniform.
The question, however, is whether the Jays starting rotation will a have a space available for Litsch when he is ready. With Villanueva pitching so reliably, I would be inclined to think not yet.
If anyone gets the yank, it should be Jo Jo Reyes, especially if his next start ends as soon as his last one did (3.2 IP, 6 ER).
The .363 blog posted an interesting take yesterday on the shelf life of Jo Jo.
Brad Mills, June 26, went six innings for the 51s, allowing four earned runs, days before getting passed up for a Toronto promotion. Though he seems to have hit a bit of a rough patch in the Pacific Coast League, statistically, he remains at the top among all starting pitchers there:
3.72 ERA (3rd), 101.2 IP (2nd), 1.28 WHIP (2nd), 92 SO (1st)
Brett Cecil, June 23, also went six innings for the 51s in his last start, allowing five earned runs. The Jays called him up anyway June 29. Cecil’s velocity has returned, touching 93 and averaging 89 mph, which returns the 6-10 mph differential considered necessary for an effective change-up.
Discounting two God-awful performances for Las Vegas, Cecil has almost matched Brad Mills in core performance measurements. Cecil also has something Mills may never have: a 15 win season at the major league level.
In related news, the Zach Stewart flirtation is over. See you in September, Zach. New Hampshire’s lucky to have you. I’m sure you will be fighting hard for your return and a pass to a proper rookie season in 2012.
I still think his ticket ought to include a pass through Las Vegas.
Upon being reactivated to the 25-man roster, Cecil alluded to the very real difference between pitching in the Pacific Coast and Majors, saying he had never had to base pitch selection on which way the wind is blowing. Perhaps it is that sort of thing the Jays want to avoid with Zach Stewart, having returned him to the Fisher Cats of the Double-A Eastern League.
Only nine PCL starting pitchers now hold an ERA below 4.00, while just 27 have ERA below 5.00 in the 16-team league.
Among them, the Jays forgettable 5th starter of Spring 2010, Dana Eveland, is enjoying a bit of success in that league. His 7-4 record and 3.86 ERA through 16 starts (91 IP) for the Albuquerue Isotopes may serve to give the 27-year-old another shot with a major league club. Just so long as it’s not with the Jays, preferably with an AL East squad. Eveland went 3-4 with a 6.45 ERA in 44.2 IP before the Jays traded him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ronald Uviedo, June 1, 2010.
As regards another former 5th starter, I would be shocked to ever see Scott Richmond start a regular season game for the Blue Jays. The #3 man in Las Vegas, has gone 4-6 with a 6.26 ERA and given up 14 HR in hitter-friendly air. In my estimation, the April 2009 MLB rookie of the month, now sits 11th in the organization’s depth chart.
My characterization of depth chart is one of constant malleability that considers current performance, health, and major league readiness as its main criteria, but also takes into account perceived statistical blips and temporary setbacks, such as in the case of Brett Cecil. My top five, though not in the same order as Bluejays. com or Torontostar. com, will not include players outside the starting rotation.
That said, when Litsch was still with the Lansing Lugnuts and Cecil still finding his form with the Las Vegas 51s, I believe Brad Mills was the most deserving candidate to take on the spot surrendered by Kyle Drabek.
Since Mark Rzepczynski has adjusted so well to his new role as lefty-specialist in middle relief, I’ve left him off this list.
- Ricky Romero
- Brandon Morrow
- Brett Cecil
- Carlos Villanueva
- Jo Jo Reyes
- Jesse Litsch
- Brad Mills
- Kyle Drabek
- Zach Stewart
- Dustin McGowan
- Scott Richmond
Jays 5, Cards 1
Carlos Villanueva is feeling right at home in the Blue Jays starting rotation.
Since Kyle Drabek left town, Villanueva has moved into accommodation at place #4.
He’s comfortable in the neighbourhood. He likes his new home. He’s putting up curtains.
Ghostrunner on First offers a thorough introduction and facial hair and statistical analysis of our new kid on the starting block.
Villanueva improved to 5-1, allowing two runs over six innings last night. He struck out three and walked one, his ERA down to 3.15.
The swing-man, who started the season out of the bullpen, will make it difficult for former rotation residents Litsch and Cecil to move back in.
If Kyle Drabek finds the form shown in April and May, finding spaces in the starting rotation gets more complicated.
The landlord and general manager have much to discuss this summer.
For now, Villanueva has found his home sweet home.
Place #4 is his to lose.
Former Canadian Olympian Paul Spoljaric has retired. Spoljaric pitched six seasons in the big leagues with the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners. He hung on until age 40, pitching among the best of the Intercounty Baseball League for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Barrie Baycats.
Former Jays badboy Josh Towers left his job with the Diablos Rojos of Mexico City for a return to employment in United States with the Camden Riversharks of the Independent Atlantic Professional Baseball League. More updates on Josh to come.
Alex Anthopolous cautiously mused about the possibility of Dustin McGowan, who touched 96 m.p.h. the other day, joining the starting rotation come September. How this would relate to his status on the Blue Jays roster, and another potential contract renewal, will depend largely on his progress in the 30 days following the end of extended spring training, at which time McGowan will have to either join the 25-man roster or clear waivers, in order to continue rehabbing with a Jays minor league outfit.
Anthopoulos spoke this afternoon with Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt on Prime Time Sports about Dustin, the state of the Blue Jays rotation, and the implications of Yunel Escobar’s new contract.
On Wednesday, April 9, 2008, as the Toronto Blue Jays took on the Oakland Athletics, attendance was a meager 16,102 at Rogers Center. I was on a first date with a cute girl, a serious baseball fan from Japan. It was her first time going to a Major League Baseball game, and it was my last time watching Dustin McGowan pitch. Normally a 500 level dweller, but looking to impress, I purchased tickets in the 100 level. Our seats were in row 13, aisle 115, right by Mr. Overbay and within decent sight range of McGowan’s new lamb chops.
The brilliance of Harry Leroy Halladay and the hype surrounding Allan James Burnett had pushed the emergence of Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan and underdog Jesse Litsch somewhat to the background in 2007. But with each young starter having established himself as part of the rotation that season, the future looked bright, indeed. And so it still was on that crisp Spring evening.
He started strong and struggled a little in the 4th and 5th innings.
“He’s young, but has a lot of talent,” I assured my seatmate.
Not quite a quality start, but a respectable one, walking three and striking out seven, allowing just two runs over five innings in a no-decision. The Jays would ultimately lose 6-3. But despite the loss and some less than culturally sensitive words thrown by hecklers in the direction of the Athletics Hawaiian (and Japanese-American) catcher Kurt Suzuki:
“You’re not even Japanese, Suzuki,”
the game, like every trip to the ballpark, was enjoyable in its own way.
While McGowan didn’t get the win, I did get the girl, with whom I would return to the Rogers Centre when the Jays took on superstar and occasional comedian Ichiro Suzuki and the Seattle Mariners.
She especially enjoyed that game, from where we sat in right field to be closer to the “Hercules” of Japanese baseball.
I likewise would have soaked up every one of 101 pitches thrown by Dustin McGowan that April 9, had I the slightest inkling that it might be the last time I would see him pitch live. All that power, along with his considerable arsenal of pitches, were analysed in poignant fashion at Baseball Analysts.
What hope Jays fans had for McGowan would be somewhat dashed three months later when it was announced he would have season-ending surgery on a frayed labrum in his shoulder. His career, and the hopes it roused, were further threatened when in July, 2009, another surgery was announced, this time on his knee to repair cartilage damage.
The bright lights that once shone upon the right-hander all but burnt out, when, in June of 2010, news broke that McGowan would undergo season ending surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff. In the realm of the ridiculous, the McGowan situation and the possible role the now 29-year-old might play, if he does make a return to the Jays roster this year, is entertainingly measured at Getting Blanked
In terms of his roster status with the Jays, as May 27 bleacher report article indicates, a decision must be made within 30 days of the end of extended spring training, June 8. He would have to clear waivers, in order to qualify himself with a Jays minor league outfit OR……… re-join the Blue Jays and its active 25-man roster in Toronto for the first time in about 1000 days.
The most improved Blue Jay of 2007 was once thought to have possessed the 4th best fastball in Major League Baseball.
His cutter was recently clocked at 95 mph. Not bad for a guy who’s looked deep into the abyss of a baseball-less future.
Kyle Drabek – heart on sleeve, raging bull of emotion on the mound, wild
Brett Cecil – fastball down to 90 mph, 8 HRs allowed in 4 starts before demotion
Jo Jo Reyes – 26-game winless streak snapped, emotions in check, weak pick-off move
Jesse Litsch – fastball + compete-level return, rotation spot deserved when healthy
Brandon Morrow – slow start, potent arsenal, control a work in progress
Carlos Villaneuva – good stuff, reliable from bullpen, exceeding expectations as starter
Sean Camp – ground ball out master, outstanding April/ May, rocky June
Jason Frasor – painstakingly deliberate approach, sure hand, best season pace
John Rauch – shades of K-Gregg, less careful, Jays best closer not saying much
Mark Rzepczynski – odd man out, smooth transition to pen, control issues lately
Casey Jannssen – bullpen stud, return to 2007 form, confident presence
Octavio Dotel – ineffective, innings eater during big losses, oldest man in pen
Frank Francisco – power + unreliability, below average closer
Luis Perez – helpful middle relief, verdict still out, given small sample-size
Aaron Hill – stats split difference between 2009 and 2010 season, too cautious
Adam Lind – back in the saddle again, Indiana boy in perfect spot behind Bautista
Travis Snider – lack of confidence, swing kinks, walk to strikeout ratio improved
Jason Nix – clutch hitting in April, non-existent May, battling Mendoza line
Jose Molina –calm in eye of storm, excellent back-up catcher, hitting well
Corey Patterson – less than smart base running, seeing good pitches
Jose Bautista – BA + OBP + OPS off the charts, home run mastery
J.P. Arencibia – great rookie production, ability + rapport with pitchers improving
Rajai Davis – speed, nice addition, injury riddled, wait and see
Edwin Encarnacion – defensive liability, disappeared home run production
Yunel Escobar – great start overall, occasional odd no-throw decisions
Juan Rivera – horrendous start, rebounded offensively, first base fill-in admirable
John McDonald – decreased production, no fearful demeanour, usual infield brilliance
Mike McCoy – future John McDonald, reliable + energetic uber-utility man